Azoth Chronicles

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chalicier
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Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36
Azoth Chronicles

I've been running ACKS since early summer, and it finally occurred to me to mention it in the Actual Play forum!

I started out well over a year ago with two competing ideas - Dwimmermount (pretty much vanilla, inasmuch as it's possible to describe Dwimmermount as 'vanilla') and a desire to create a campaign setting based on Gnostic mythology (absent supernal Creator vs relatively petty and venal Demiurge, the whole premise of gnosis, and historical connections to alchemical concepts). Eventually I decided to create a Gnostic-tinted world into which I could plug Dwimmermount with some changes here and there. Things were pretty much set, and I got ready to run the campaign...

Then I got hold of Sinister Stone of Sakkara, and my plans all changed again :) I really should get better at sticking to a single tone but the adventure was just too good to pass up, so I went back to the drawing board again, and started work on a setting where Dwimmermount would be higher-level material (on the other side of a mini-continent, within a vast alchemically-poisoned wasteland) while I figured out how to tweak the Sinister Stone into my existing setting, in which the "falling Empire" has fallen significantly more quickly than in the Auran Empire setting.

Eventually I ended up with Azoth Chronicles; a setting in which a succession of large, powerful empires have ruled the mini-continent and sponsored many many alchemists in plumbing the secrets of the elements. I added a quasi-Buddhist religious system inspired a little by the Elder Scrolls series (using formerly-mortal Bodhisattvas known as Ascendants rather than Gods in the usual sense, acting as conduits through which Clerics can touch the Supernal, transcendant reality outside the corrupt physical world), set up a pile of potential national-scale conflicts, and picked a suitable location to put the Temple of the Stone - which is now named for the nearby small town of Sakkara rather than a Cthonic goddess, since no such things exist in my setting.

Then I found myself a quartet of players, and set them loose on it!

Currently I have a Fighter 4, an Explorer 5, a Witch 4, and a Dwarven Machinist 2. They are currently leading 6 henchmen, and have cleared out everything on the first floor of the Temple except Idimmu and his minions. They just had a nasty fight with the Red Eye Gnolls and killed off a rogue Malyn along with an Invisible Stalker he summoned using a one-use amulet. It's notable that between the Machinist and a hench with Alertness, they're doing a surprisingly great job of spotting secret doors and dealing with traps. Also Explorers are completely amazing and every party should have one.

The campaign log and wiki is here: https://chroniclesofazoth.obsidianportal.com/ . The wiki is currently incomplete, lacking quite a lot of setting information I have in text documents, and the characters are out of date (I've had two PC deaths and the players haven't updated their character pages). However the campaign log is complete apart from a run of missed entries last month due to a hideous crunch period at work. I'm steadily expanding the information on the Wiki as time goes on.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

What a delightful fusion of the different settings - amazing! I have wanted to use Dwimmermount for a long time, but have never quite figured out how to within my own Auran Empire campaign setting.

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

Thanks, Alex!

(Thalex?)

I've been looking for ways to add to the alchemy-driven feel of the setting. I wrote a Grand Alchemist class, but the transmutation abilities I gave it didn't work out well in play; but since old school gonna old school my players tried to use them as a way around doors etc and the really long lead times I wrote in became "make a giant pile of wandering monster rolls." This eventually resulted in me having to explain why a nearly-empty minidungeon had a pack of minotaurs wandering around.

I still like the idea of the Adventuring Gentleman Alchemist, and my core choices (HD 1, Arcane 2, Thief 1, lots of tradeoffs) were pretty sound; once I've fine-tuned the class abilities I'll post it up here.

Otherwise, so far I've got the following:

- Hireling Alchemists are one step more common than in the standard ACKS rules, with Alaria's only Class I Settlement having 3d10 Alchemists available for hire at any given time (and the rest under contract or outright control by patrician families, crime syndicates, the legions etc).
- Gunpowder uses the Alchemical Gunpowder special rules.
- Alchemists and other users of monster parts can get an Azoth Filtration proficiency that allows them to distill monster bits into "blank" azoth (which can be used for anything) at a rate of 5:1.
- As a result of the Azoth Filtration proficiency and the increased number of Alchemists, potions are significantly easier to get made but still very expensive. Prices and probabilities of magic items remain the same, but any settlement with a generated Alchemist (which includes every Class IV settlement and many smaller places) can be used to commission potions.
- I wrote my own random dungeon type table, in which "Old Alchemical Laboratory" is a relatively common type of ruin.

I'm currently working up ideas for more in-depth weirdness, and possibly a modification of Blight on the Land from Axioms, used to describe areas tainted by Grand Alchemists with less scrupulous approaches to their art. 

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

As a note on Dwimmermount - I'm considering Azoth to be the element in monster parts that gives it mystic potency. "Blank" or "Distilled" Azoth, as created by alchemists, is distinct from and inferior to the "Raw" Azoth produced in Dwimmermount and cannot be used for Alkahest, Panchrest, Sovereign Glue and all the other stuff at the end of the book. However, since Dwimmermount exists in the setting and has been active in the past, some rare and tiny quanitity of goods created using Raw Azoth from Dwimmermount survive; and if my players ever reach it, they could potentially renew the production of those goods, arguably kickstarting a technological revolution.

I dread to think what you could do by applying Raw Azoth to the creation of Alchemical Gunpowder...

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

As of last night's session, I've officially introduced bugmen as existing in the Azoth Chronicles campaign! The "old corpses" room in the Temple of the Stone contained a bugman exoskeleton, its flesh long rotted away, and the Witch's familiar passed its Loremastery roll to know "what the hell that thing was."

(I gave my players a once-over of the bits from HC and BCoK I'm considering adding, and a couple of them fell madly in love with the bugmen as an idea.) 

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

Other highlights from last night:

"Yes, child. The flames will devour yellow fungus as I devour all things."

"Tried eating a little human once. Didn't go well, got chased by peoples with sticks. Not fun. Still tasty though!"

"Wait... WAIT! I have Black Lore of Zahar*! CONTROL UNDEAD!"

"Locate Object only works on general object classes or one you've seen firsthand? Can we cast Locate Evil Murderstone? That's a category, right?"

The sheer shock from my players at discovering that the Familiar, empowered by the Great Maw, the Principle of Consumption itself, did not want to eat the ghouls because "No! Not tasty! Poison!"

 

(* Zahar in Azoth Chronicles is both the name of the man/god/thing that invented Necromancy, and the ancient city of darkness he built on the back of that creation. Think Nagash, but more Eastern European than Egyptian.)

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

How awesome! I love how you've integrated all these different elements into the game from various settings. I love doing that, too.

Your Alchemy rules look very sensible.

 

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

It's going pretty well. We're now more-or-less done with SSoS; the Lady Below escaped and is believed at large, Idimmu has left for the ruined city of Kalar along with most of his kobold cult, and the party are currently having fun with their loot and the Drunken Debauchery tables.

One of the PCs wants to retake the recently-fallen city of Green Basin, which might prove a problem given it was conquered by an Ogre Warmaster (a variant Ogre class built around the idea of that 1 in 10,000 Ogre with an actual INT bonus). The Dwarven Machinist just got a giant plot hook about their entire culture being pretty much a huge lie, the Cthonic Witch is still trying to persuade everyone she isn't evil (with very limited success) and the Explorer is trying to work out how she can go back to her kids now she's got scales. I've got absolutely no idea what they're gonna do next. Sandboxes; gotta love 'em!

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

What mutations did everyone suffer? I read the campaign log and you noted "terrible mutations" but not which ones.

 

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

Leandro has Claws, which he's attempting to keep trimmed; I'm gonna have fun with that one I suspect.

Tomas aka "Dave" the assassin-pirate henchman (long story) now has bat wings.

Marit has scales, as mentioned above. It's reduced her mobility a bit, but she also now has Boots of Speed, so its swings and roundabouts there.

Nantechildis has glowing eyes, which just adds to her Weird Eldritchness. 

Everyone else was either out of direct LOS (it was a very weird final encounter with nearly everyone hiding in the corridor inside a Protection From Evil) or passed their save.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Wow, they get messed up! Wild.

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

Yeah. I was very worried about the save-or-die, but the Fighter's player remains perhaps the jammiest save roller in history.

My other major note is that for some reason my dice absolutely love this party when it comes to rolling treasure. They were complaining that the Temple of the Stone seemed like a relatively minor haul, and I felt a little offput by that until I realised that they have tens of thousands of gp in jewellery and gemstones just lying around due to an Ettin lair with a frankly insane level of treasure. On the way back from the Temple they wandered into a carnivorous fly nest that had a ton of loot in it. It sometimes seems like every "how many monsters are in the nest" roll and every d100 roll for the treasure goes their way.

I don't have the heart to fudge the rolls, so I'm increasingly falling back on L&E where I can just so the risk/reward ratio remains sane.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Hah, I have to admit that ever since I published Lairs & Encounters, the number of lair encounters seems to have increased in my campaigns. It's like they're just so easy to put in front of the players...

 

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

Just dropping a note to say that the campaign is still ongoing, I just got rather sick of doing the session logs. In particular it often feels like doing session logs for weeks which end up being mostly bookwork feels like a complete waste of time. I'm still very slowly building the wiki for the setting though.

Jard
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters ContributorBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2012-07-11 23:23

Just dropping a note to say that the campaign is still ongoing, I just got rather sick of doing the session logs. In particular it often feels like doing session logs for weeks which end up being mostly bookwork feels like a complete waste of time. I'm still very slowly building the wiki for the setting though.


-chalicier

I use incentives to get one of my players to do the logs, and they usually take turns.  In exchange for writing a chronicle, their characters get to sell their tale for 10gp * total levels of all participants * number of sessions.  They treat the proceeds from this like they would treasure from a dungeon, so everyone gets a little extra XP.  I offered something similar to what's in dwimmermount for keeping maps, but they seemed to not be into careful mapmaking.

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

A quick update:

The party are now doing "city adventures". Amongst numerous other things, they've reclaimed an abbey from a necromantic cult, the leader of which had a Wand of Cold; having no arcane spellcaster they decided to sell it. This led to my players discovering just how insanely valuable magic items are.

However due to the Trove Law (essentially a tax on "found goods" of the kind usually recovered by adventurers), by the time they discovered this the item was in the hands of the incredibly slimy Thane Anagild, which led to pretty much an entire session of shenanigans as my party attempted to negotiate a deal with the Underguild to recover an arcane wand while not having either a thief or a mage of any kind. (The nearest thing they have is a somewhat dubious Dwarven Machinist.)

However, with the wand recovered and sold, they're now all level 5-6. They're definitely starting to look at the bigger picture... apart from Cat, who has decided to retire her Explorer after the next dungeon. Given the party plans a huge expedition to the Bargainer's League, this could lead to a massive increase in the number of encounters on the road, something my party have gotten very used to being able to avoid. I look forward to their reaction :)

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

Used a modified version of the Hag lair from Lairs & Encounters, refluffed to be located in an underground chamber. Two of the Fine Ladies were present; the resulting standoff between them and about 10 attackers left two dead henchmen (one raised by their recently befriended Priest of the Toll, the other basically a smear), lots of folks having run away due to Fear, and two dead hags. This was primarily due to Leandro (the party's Fighter) having the most extraordinary luck with saving throws, passing save after save after save, and some incredibly well-timed spell interruptions from the frontline Henchmen - one Hag being prevented from Polymorphing herself into a 9HD Hydra being a particular highlight.

The party looted the place, lost their Fighter temporarily to the Mirror of Life-Trapping, then had a very amusing moment where they realised (battered and bruised) that there were three bedrooms in the lair...They beat a hasty retreat, figuring the entrance to the Catacombs beneath could wait for another day.

They've hired a quartermaster to gather the huge quantities of rations they'll need for their 480-ish mile journey west and continued to amass horses and wagons. With the Abbey of the Damsel Stone being rebuilt, they've only really got two major locations left to pay attention: the Siadonos Catacombs and the Calendar of the Cosmogonic Suns (Shade Lair) from L&E. 

(I had to spontaneously invent a Gnostic-Alchemy-World explanation as to what the "Cosmogonic Suns" were last session. I decided that according to Black Lore, there are no fewer than 27 Cosmogonic Suns - the Day Sun, the Night Sun which lights the moon, the Earth Sun which heats the ground when you dig deep, and 24 Sky Suns which keep the constellations in place. Black Lore holds that making predictions purely according to the stars is flawed, and instead the "true" astrology is performed via the position of the Cosmogonic Suns.)

chalicier
Patreon SupporterBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2017-01-14 00:36

Just a quick catchup:

After the hag battle I lost two players in pretty quick succession in April, so I put Chronicles of Azoth on hold for the summer in favour of trying out an Exalted 3rd Ed campaign with a newish group. 

However I still have several people pushing for it to return around the beginning of the next academic year; my Weird-Gnostic-Alchemy world may yet return! 

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Sorry to hear your campaign had to get put on hold. I'll be curious what Exalted is like. I love their world lore but the system looks...baroque... and I say that as a baroque fellow!

Your solution to the Cosmogonic Suns was very cool.